Archive for September, 2004


Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

There’s a guy in our office who spends the entire day making stupid noises. If he’s not whistling mobile phone ringtones, he’s drumming on the desk, replicating the Grange Hill music, singing, or making that oh-so-hilarious simulated wanking noise you used to make as a kid by grabbing your cheek and waggling it.

And the thing is, if I ripped his limbs off, beat him to death with them and then stuck his body on a spike, I would be the one who went to jail. Where’s the justice in that?


Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

LomoWall Builder

I’m taking part in a LomoManchester exhibition at Font in Manchester soon: we’ve each been given a dirty great big piece of cardboard, and told to fill it with 50 6×4 prints. This is a harder task than you might imagine, so I can up with a little toy to help me; there’s 100 of my Lomo images to play with and arrange in whatever fashion you choose (it could take a while to load – there’s about 6MB of images).

If you want to “save” your wall, click on “Generate”, which will pop up two links, Display and Edit. The Edit link will bring you back to an edit page with your arrangement on it, and the Display link will give you a page which simply displays your arrangement. The URLs generated are, er, quite long, so you might want to tinify them. Here’s one I made earlier.

Edit: It looks like TinyURL are having DNS issues, so might not work at the moment…

My Life

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

I’ve written about Piled High and Deeper before. This comic represents my life to a frightening degree:


Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Quite possibly the most beautiful film ever made.

Last night

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Last night, I stormed out of a bar for the first time in ages. I’m still not entirely sure why I did it, but I was getting increasingly annoyed about the fact that people kept turning up at the bar and getting served ahead of me simply because they had breasts and I didn’t. Anyway, after one other punter who’d arrived after me got served, I said something pithy and ironic to the barstaff and left. Well, okay, that’s not quite true. I swore loudly at the bar staff and stormed out. In retrospect, this was quite embarassing, and it’s not something I intend to make too much of a habit of, but for a short while, it made me feel a bit better.

Later on, at Rock Kitchen in the MMU (whose idea of a rock night appears to differ from mine, in that I do not consider PJ and Duncan’s “Let’s get ready to Rhumble” to be a rock song), I saw a student wearing a Ghostbusters t-shirt. Ghostbusters came out in 1984. If this student was a fresher, he would have been born in 1986, two years after the film came out. He will also have been 11 when I came to University. This sort of thing troubles me.


Friday, September 24th, 2004

Bill Gates has, once again, topped the Forbes rich list. He’s worth $48billion, apparently. Just consider that number for a moment. $48billion. It’s an incomprehensible amount of money. If he spent $10 million – more money than most people see in their lifetimes, and a life-changing amount for most people – he would still have $47.99 billion dollars left – barely a dent. If he were a country, he would be the 54th richest (by GDP) in the world – richer than Morocco, Luxembourg, Ecuador and Croatia. In order to get through it all by the time he died (let’s be generous and consider that he will die at 100 – he’s got the money to spend on healthcare, after all), he would have to spend at the rate of $2.6million a day – and that’s not even considering the interest he’s accruing on that which, at a fairly conservative rate of 2% would be $1billion a year, or $2.7million a day.

Let’s think of this another way. A dollar bill is about 15x6cm, and we’ll say it’s 0.1mm thick, for the sake of argument. An decent sized mattress would be, say, 2m x 2m. You could cover the mattress with about 476 dollar bills, with a bit of overlap at the edges. He would need a stack of about 100.8 million of these layers to pile all his money up – or a stack about 10,080m high. Terminal velocity of a human body is about 120mph, or about 55m/s. It will only take a couple of seconds to accelerate to this speed, so for sufficiently large amounts of time, it will be this velocity, not the acceleration due to gravity that will be the overriding factor.

If Bill Gates had piled all of his money up underneath his mattress, and fell out of bed in the middle of the night, it would take him just over 3 minutes – 183 seconds, give or take – to hit the ground.

And with all that in mind, the stingy git still won’t lend me a tenner.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

We entered the 24 hour film challenge; this was a lot like last year’s 48 hour film challenge, except half as long. I’ve been waiting until the actual films go online before writing it all up; the files are quite big, so you might want to set them going before you start to read. There’s a 67MB DivX version, or a 34MB WMV version. Anyway.

6am. It’s getting light again. I’ve been sat at my laptop, headphones on, with about 70 files open in SoundForge trying to mix together all the audio for the rough cut of the film I have in front of me, for getting on for 4 hours now, after 2 hours of foley recordings and re-recording actor dialogue. I am assured by John that the cut timings are exact, and it’s only the visuals that may change; in about an hour, we will find out that this is not the case. My mental state is deteriorating, things are becoming fuzzy, and I really, really just want this to be over, now, please.

One of the biggest problems we faced with last years challenge was that we had far too many people; we ended up with four hours of footage for a 5 minute film, and everyone wanted to be involved with everything. It added unnecessary stress to the proceedings and just complicated matters. So, this year, 2880 was stripped down to five people – Topper, Brian, Dan, John and myself, along with three wonderful and highly talented actors that Brian had dragged up from Shooting People. This made the whole process much smoother; we even managed to stick to the off-the-top-of-our-heads schedule we’d come up for ourselves and still managed to fit in an hour to go to the pub on the Saturday evening.

3am. I’m standing in a carpark, wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket, holding a camcorder, connected to which is an expensive Sennheiser microphone which Topper acquired when Channel 4 were doing some filming in his house. I am trying to get some engine sounds from Brian’s car for use in the opening sequence. When we get back to the flat and transfer the tape, we will discover that the audio is useless, and we will have to go back out early in the morning to re-record it, and I will have to very quickly slap it into place in the opening sequence soundtrack before we hand the film in. This does not do good things to my mental state.

The filming went much more smoothly this year. We only had the one camera, which was both a blessing and a curse – it meant we couldn’t shoot the same shot from more than one angle, but it did mean that we only ended up with 45 minutes of footage to work through. Brian had cobbled together a steadycam, which worked well, and we had a couple of radio mics which gave much better sound quality than the boom mic we used last year. Plus, I got to feel the lead actress’s arse under the pretence of adjusting her mic transmitter.

4pm. We’re standing in a field, huddled under umbrellas, because the heavens have just opened in spectacular fashion. We are struggling to protect the equipment, but are not keen on getting drenched ourselves; plus, we need to keep the actors dry for continuity reasons. During the filming, I’m trailing the camera with the mic mixing desk, connected to it by an umbilical tangle of cables and trying not to get in anyone’s way whilst still trying to get useful sound. Rebeca’s mic keeps distorting, and every so often I get a burst of static which fries my eardrums for the next five minutes. We won’t use a single second of the audio recorded on location, and I will have to recreate the whole thing in post, but I don’t know that yet.

We had a horror film to make; this meant we got to play with fake blood, record silly sound effects and play with visual effects during the edit. We get some nice shots by putting the camera in a transparent plastic box and squirting fake blood at it; we shoot day-for-night by use of a blue filter and stopping down the camera’s aperture; we make stabbing sounds by recording Brian stabbing a cabbage, and I get Irsan to groan and gurgle into a mic to provide sounds for the death scene. Rebeca gets far too excited whilst we’re shooting the murder scene, and Irsan is noticably concerned about the fact he’s going to be around a knife-wielding maniac both on- and off-screen, but nobody gets hurts or covered in fake blood.

“Keep an eye on that stuff on the stove, it’ll thicken up nicely soon and we can use it for the blood”. Like hell did it thicken up. When we spilled it on the ground in front of the camera, it was virtually invisible. We had to use neat food colouring on the knife, and none of the boxcam shots were usable until we re-recorded them back at the flat with a different blood formulation.

The whole process seemed much less fraught and went much more smoothly than last year. We only shot 45 minutes of footage, and were working with Actual Actors, which made life much easier; we were also far more comfortable with our software and tools this time around, so it wasn’t as much of a learning process. My Edirol UA-5 did absolutely sterling work recording overdubs and foley, working cleanly and without problem all night, and deftly dealing with every sound source we threw at it. We even managed to grab about half an hour of sleep each during the 24 hours, fit in a trip to the pub and finished the film with about half an hour to spare. And I think we produced a much better film than last year’s effort, even though we only had half the amount of time to do it in.

Of course, it was still bloody hard work. Long, tedious, hard work.

But we did it. Again.

Yes. We did it. Again.

And we’ll do it again next year too.

Yes. We probably will.

Apropos of nothing

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

Did you know that there’s enough geothermal activity in Indonesia to power the entire country through geothermal power?

Tracy Chapman

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Topper put on a CD by Dennis Rollins as we were on the way down to Brian‘s place to make the film. He’s a jazz trombonist in a very similar vein to Courtney Pine (Dennis Rollins, that is; Topper is a network engineer with designs on becoming a film producer, but is more likely to end up as a pornographer), and one of the tracks on the album was a cover of Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. It wasn’t exactly a good cover, because it used the trombone to replace the vocal part (rule #1 in the instrumental covers rulebook: don’t ever get an instrument to play the vocal line unless you want it to sound like lift muzak) and I thought it was something by Gabrielle at first. But it reminded me of what a great song Fast Car is, and got it stuck in my head for the rest of the weekend.

Cathy and I left the pub just before closing time on Sunday to go and find out what times the trains back to Welwyn were. We had some time to kill, as my lift from the station back to Brian’s flat was still at the cinema, so we went back to Cathy’s flat for a coffee and to work out which side of the international dateline the Pitcairn Islands fell. As I was hanging up my coat, Cathy put on some music: a Tracy Chapman CD, the first track of which was Fast Car.

It’s just nice when life all fits together like that.

Jesse Malin

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

About half an hour into his set, and halfway through his cover of Helpless by Neil Young, Jesse Malin climbs down off the stage, and lies down in the middle of the audience, and encourages everyone else to lie down with him. Everybody does, and the whole crowd sings “Helpless, Helpless, Helpless” along with him. It’s a powerful moment, even in a venue as small as this. It captures perfectly the frustrations felt by so many who want to change things for the better, but feel utterly powerless in the face of multinational corporations and institutionally corrupt right-wing governments.

Jesse Malin refuses to be pigeonholed. In fact, he gets quite annoyed with people who do try to put him in a little box labelled “new-alt-country-emo-punk-rock” and leave him on a shelf. He just writes songs about things he sees and feels and does: about the beautiful girl on the train he never had the courage to talk to; about being with someone who is completely messed up, but who you love anyway; about living in a country with a government who doesn’t speak for you; about life in a big city and all that entails. He tells tales of how he onced moved a bed for Barbara Streisand, and ended up getting drunk and hanging out by the Atlantic Ocean. He jumps around on stage like a man possessed one moment, before become withdrawn and emotional for a tender acoustic ballad the next. He lives for being on stage and regularly steps over the monitors to meet the crowd, even though he knows it’s what everyone expects of big rock stars. Which, obviously, he’s absolutely sure he’s not; he’s just a guy from New York who wants to make music – and tonight, the people who have come to see him play, are all very glad for that.